All Things New: Relationships

All Things New: Relationships

After becoming a solo parent, the dynamics of our friendships and relationships can seem to evaporate. In this new year, as we take inventory of things in our past and we look toward the future, we know how important relationships are—especially in a season that can be so lonely. But where do we start? For some of us, relational rejection from our past has caused us to feel betrayed. And on top of that, relationships can feel so awkward. Frankly, it’s hard to think of having the energy or courage to put ourselves out there all over again.  

We Need Each Other

Solo Parent Elizabeth is realizing that she’s more discerning now than she’s ever been. “It’s not because I’m not open to new relationships (because I am), but I think I’m a little more selective when I’m talking to someone. I can gauge whether or not they’re willing to go deeper. I cannot stand small talk—it’s boring and I want to get to the meat of it. I think that’s a result of me growing in getting to know myself better and wanting to have rich and meaningful conversations. Those are so fulfilling to me that I’d rather pour my energy into that.”

When Elizabeth was in her new solo parent days, she was so hungry for relationships that she sought it out in unhealthy ways. “I was always looking for people I could connect with on a deeper level but I didn’t know how to do that. I felt like I had one hundred shallow relationships rather than five or six deep meaningful relationships. For so long, that was great. I survived and thrived in that atmosphere. Now, because I’ve learned how to connect with people on a deeper level, I don’t have as many of those shallow relationships anymore. I did have to be intentional about giving myself boundaries to say “this isn’t fulfilling”. Understanding that feeling helped guide me towards being more intentional with the relationships I do have rather than trying so hard to pull people in.” 

Wanting to be known, seen, and understood is a natural part of being human. And when you’re going through something hard, that need intensifies even more—especially as we try to seek out true connection. 

Shortly after her husband died, Solo Parent Marissa found herself getting more and more comfortable with being isolated. So, she decided to make a rule that if anyone asked her to do something, she would say yes. At her core, Marissa is an introvert. So, she started training herself to need relationships. But finding those deep and connected relationships she was searching for was a long journey. “New people don’t really want to walk on an adventure of healing with you. They don’t want you to come in and be like, ‘Hey, so my husband died six months ago and I’m really struggling. Maybe about every 10 minutes or so in a conversation, I will just break out in random tears, but I hope that’s not going to be a problem because I’ll still be listening to you.’ That’s not a relationship winner for new friends. 

Finding new friends can be a long and lonely road to navigate. On one hand, it can be inherently lonely. There’s definitely people out there who understand what it’s like to go through a divorce or loss, but they can’t walk your loss in step with you. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Maybe it’s just getting outside of the old ways of doing things and starting fresh with new ideas. 

Four Ways to Start New Relationships This Year

We’re getting into a new year and taking an inventory of our lives and the things that we want to do differently. Relationships are one of those things that deserves some attention. We can either tend to isolate, escape, or even numb out. Or we get into new relationships to fill the lonely void in your heart that may not actually be healthy. So how do we go about awkwardly stepping into new relationships, or even establishing old relationships with different dynamics?

Here are four ideas to help you establish your relationships this year:

  1. Evaluate your relationships

This one can be tough. Evaluating your current relationships, especially in regard to your solo season can mean having to take on the hard task of letting go or saying goodbye. It could also mean pushing pause on the relationships that aren’t steering you in healthy ways. Evaluate: Are the people in your life healthy? Are they people your kids like to be around? Are they a good influence on your children as well?

There are only 24 hours in a day. And as a solo parent, most of those are taken up by work, sleep, and raising your children. There’s only so many hours left for connection. And since that’s the case, you want to be sure you’re investing in the relationships that matter most. What are those relationships you’re going to invest in that are truly going to help you make it through what you’re going through? 

We’re not just talking about picking the people that make you feel good because there’s some soul searching that has to be done. It’s far better to have a friend who will be honest with you than to just tell you what you want to hear.

  1. Be curious 

Be open to new relationships. And to do that, sometimes it takes putting your phone down, letting go of the distractions, and just looking around. Start small. For instance, if you have to stand in line at the coffee shop, look up and smile at those around you. Greet them. Ask them how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a deep or meaningful conversation. But getting curious about those around you will open yourself up to new conversations, new interactions, and maybe even new relationships. 
Curiosity also helps when it comes to getting to know others. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take that relationship even deeper. Ask someone to go to coffee and just be interested in their life. You never know what God might have in store when you’re willing to be curious and get outside of the normal routines you’re used to living in.

  1. Risk again

Risk can sometimes be scary. Not only do you not know the exact outcome, you also have to step outside your comfort zone to do it. Taking a risk may mean saying “yes” to someone who invites you out on a date. It might mean saying “yes” to a small group or an invitation to join an underwater basket weaving group. 

Here’s the bottom line: Nothing in your life is going to change unless you begin changing up the way you’ve always done things. And that starts with taking a risk. 

  1. Understand that friendships are a two-way street

In our busyness, we can get caught up in what we have going on while forgetting what’s going on in the lives of everyone around us. We can forget to connect and ask questions, even sliding into isolation and a victim mentality. 

Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t expect everyone to always chase after you and ask you how you’re doing. In order to develop and keep true connection in your relationships, you have to spend time investing in them. Send them a simple text following up on a previous conversation. Ask them to go to coffee when you have a free hour. No matter what you decide to do, just remember that curating connection is an investment. And you have to put in the work. 

Solo Parent: You are worth connection. And this year, as we dive into a new year, hold onto the hope that all things can really be new. The things of last year are allowed to be left in last year. As you look ahead into 2023, challenge yourself to do things in a new way, create connections with new friends, and be willing to try new things.

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